new article on the future of peer-review at bible and interpretation

Bible and Interpretation has published my latest essay entitled, “How and Why Academic Peer-Review is About to Change.” The article looks at how new technologies like blogs, wikis, and Google Docs can improve the peer-review process by allowing for increased review, an improved editing process, and a shorter time to press. Check it out.

new game ‘the bible online’ puts you in the role of bible characters

The Bible Online GameA new game MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) role playing strategy game is under development that allows players to assume roles of biblical characters, only this game is far from a What Would Jesus Do simulation. In “The Bible Online,” players assume the roles of biblical characters of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and play out more than a few of the scenes from the Bible that aren’t typically discussed in Sunday school.

According to online gaming news site Destructoid:

If you’ve ever read all the rape, genocide and deep-seated racism in The Bible and thought to yourself, “Man, that sounds like my kind of world,” then this is the game for you! The Bible Online allows players to “slip into the role of Abraham and his descendants and have the opportunity to reenact and witness the incidents of their times.”

The game is going to be split into chapters with The Heroes being the first released. The basic setup is that of an MMO strategy game, where players control their own tribe, build a city, and naturally wage war in the name of God. It won’t be a case of holding onto territory, however, as the ultimate goal is leading one’s band of merry savages into the promised land.

So we’re about to have an online role playing game that takes us through all of those Bible stories that no one talks about: Genesis 6:1-7 (angels having sex with humans), Genesis 22:1-17 (the akedah – command from God to sacrifice a child), Genesis 30:14-16 (Leah purchasing sex with Jacob from Rachel with mandrakes), Genesis 34 (rape of Dinah and the slaughter of Shechem and the city) Genesis 38 (spilling seed, Judah and Tamar), Numbers 31 (massacre of the Midianites and apportionment of the remaining women), Deuteronomy 7:1-5; 20:10-17 (various instructions for genocide), Joshua 7:2-26 (the stoning of Achan and his family/belongings), Joshua 10:16-27 (the execution of five foreign kings), Joshua 11:21-22 (the massacre at Anakim), Judges 1:8 (the massacre of Jerusalem), Judges 11:34-39 (Jephthah kills his virgin daughter), Judges 19:22-30 (gang rape and dismemberment), etc., etc.
(h.t. to Brick Testament for the illustrations.)

I’m not sure how I feel about this game. I am traditionally one to encourage students to read all of the Bible and not just those sanitized portions they find appealing. The Bible is full of sex an violence, oppression and injustice on all sides that often appear as commands from God. In that regard, it is good for people to come to terms with what is actually claimed in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. On the other hand, how much will this game overemphasize the sex and violence of the text and skew its significance in comparison to the good that the text is attempting to communicate (as I have done above)? Will the game developers build in a sense of morality or will the game be little more than Grand Theft Auto: Holy Land? We’ll see.

(ht: john lynch)

wishing a very happy birthday to jim west

Robert Cargill and Jim West in Santa Monica

Robert Cargill and Jim West in Santa Monica

on this day, august 29, 19XX, jim west was born. little did he know that one day he would be the most widely read, most visible, and most influential blogger about biblical issues that no one admits to reading on earth. ;-)

of course, jim isn’t right we disagree about many things: his stance on gay marriage leaves much to be desired, and his failure to comprehend the sheer magnitude of the importance of the abc hit series lost (with the exception of the last episode which sucked) may very well cost him at the pearly gates. for some, jim is a wee bit too very outspoken, and his use of hyperbole in cases of dilettantes and total depravity is a shade more than some can stomach. but those of us who have had the opportunity to spend time with the man, the myth, and the page view statistical legend in real-time outside of his online persona know him to be a caring man, committed to his church, and possessing a genuine concern for others.

of course, jim won’t appreciate the fact that i’m telling people that he is actually a good-hearted and compassionate man beneath his oft cantankerous online disposition, but that’s too bad. for all of the pros and cons, similarities and differences, agreements and disagreements, jim is honest and straightforward man who likes what he likes, dislikes what he dislikes, and lets you know both even when you haven’t asked. his contributions to realm of blogging are innumerable, and he has become a true asset to the scholarly community as a central resource for what is going on in the online realm.

so without sounding too much like a star trek geek, allow me to offer jim this birthday message: you are and always will be my friend.

happy 50th birthday jim,

bobcargill

chris rollston on the inventors of the alphabet

Christopher Rollstonchris rollston has written a solid article on the probable inventors of the alphabet on the asor blog. he concludes:

(1) the Muttersprache of the inventors of the alphabet was a Northwest Semitic language, (2) and that the inventors of the alphabet functioned in a reasonably high status role within a component (or components) of the Egyptian administrative apparatus, that is, officialdom. (3) I believe that it is reasonable and tenable to argue that they learned Egyptian writing from Egyptian scribes. (4) I contend that it would be improbable that illiterate miners were capable of, or responsible for, the invention of the alphabet. (5) Ultimately, writing in antiquity was an elite venture and those that invented the alphabet were Northwest Semitic speakers, arguably they were officials in the Egyptian apparatus, quite capable with the complex Egyptian writing system.

give it a read.

hilarious: geocities-izer makes any website look like it was created in geocities

this is classic – literally!

remember geocities, that ubiquitous web page hosting solution that gave users a digital box of crayons and animated gifs and allowed them to use them all on the same page? well now you can relive the birth of the internet by going back and transforming your favorite websites into what they would have looked like had they been created in geocities.

just go to wonder tonic’s geocities-izer website and enter the url of the site you want to send back in time to make it look like it was designed by a 13-year old in 1996, complete with midi file music!

here are a few i made:

give it a try and enjoy.

california bill would crack down on e-impersonators

Online Impersonation

Battling impostors: SB-1411 is designed to punish those who use fake identities online. Credit: Christopher T. Fong and Russell Yip / The Chronicle

An article in SF Gate (San Francisco Chronicle online) by Alejandro Martinez-Cabrera highlights California State Bill 1411 (SB-1411). If passed, the bill:

would make it unlawful to knowingly and without consent credibly impersonate another person through or on an Internet Web site or by other electronic means with the intent to harm, intimidate, threaten or defraud another person.

Current law addressing false impersonation is outdated and was not drafted with the technologies of the 21st century in mind.  SB 1411 brings us up to date by making these forms of cyber impersonation a punishable offense.

State Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) introduced a bill in June that would make it a misdemeanor to maliciously impersonate someone. SF Gate has previously reported on the bill here.

If Simitian’s bill passes, online impersonations with the purpose “of harming, intimidating, threatening or defrauding” would be punishable with a maximum fine of $1,000 and one year in jail.

The article states:

Malicious online impersonation has often been brushed away as the complaints from overly sensitive people who can’t stand parody or criticism, but a range of recent incidents have really stressed the question of where to draw the line.

Recent incidents? I might know of one.

The bill unanimously passed both the California Assembly and Senate, and now awaits Governor Schwarzenegger’s signature.

I strongly urge the governor to sign the bill. As a victim of this kind of crime, I cannot underscore how important this kind of legislation is. The first amendment was designed to protect differences of opinion, dissenting views, and to promote new ideas, not as a shield to protect criminal impersonators, forgers, and identity thieves hiding behind electronic forms of anonymity in an effort to dodge accountability and civil remedies while they perpetrate well-orchestrated, premeditated campaigns of harassment, defamation, and libel against their victims.

The law is coming.

why jim west doesn’t skateboard

(but if he did, he’d probably walk away too.)

Lawrence Schiffman, Robert Cargill Interviewed Live on Israel National Radio’s LandMinds Program

Arutz Sheva's Israel National RadioI was interviewed live this morning on Arutz Sheva’s Israel National Radio on the LandMinds program with Barnea (Selavan) and David (Willner). Jim Long sat in for Barnea, who was away. NYU’s Dr. Lawrence Schiffman was interviewed in the first hour (mp3: part 1, part 2), and I was interviewed in the second hour (mp3: part 1, part 2).

Professor Schiffman answered questions about Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls for the first hour and provided some wonderful insights and background to the study of the scrolls. In the first part of the second hour, I answered questions about Qumran and offered my opinions about the establishment of the site, its residents, who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the role of virtual reality modeling in archaeology. In the second half hour, I answered questions about the history of archaeology, the role of scholars in public education, technology’s role in archaeological education, the importance of debunking pseudoscience and sensationalist claims, how to teach critical biblical studies without abandoning the faith and/or alienating people of faith, issues of biblical historicity and mythology, and finally answered the story about how I came to be Nicole Kidman’s private tutor.

Many thanx to David Willner and Jim Long for a wonderful interview. Don’t forget to add the LandMinds Facebook page.

LandMinds broadcasts live at www.israelnationalradio.com every Wednesday from 5-7pm Israel time, 3-5pm in the UK, and 10-12am EST. Shows are rebroadcast, and archived on the A7 and Foundation Stone websites for your convenience. Podcasts are also available on iTunes.

u.s. news: harvard is the nation’s top school

US NewsHarvard University is the nation’s top school according to the 2011 U.S. News & World Report rankings released today.

California once again landed the most schools in the top 50 with 9 schools, with 5 of those in the top 25:

Read more here.

oops. getting into college just got easier, er, i mean harder

there’s no other way to say it: this sucks.

cnn is reporting:

A computer glitch mistakenly caused around 2,500 applicants to Middlesex University in the United Kingdom to receive acceptance letters to study at the school in error.

i remember how tense of a time it was when i was applying and i cannot begin to tell you how torn up i would be if i had received one of these letters only to be told later that it was in error. imagine all of the excitement, validation, encouragement, and celebration a student experiences upon opening that letter, and then heap upon that the disappointment of rejection.

argh!

it was an obvious mistake by the university’s admissions office, but still. my sympathy goes out to all affected by this error.

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